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Racism in American Society in 'Just Walk on By' by Brent Staples

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Racism has existed throughout history feeding on the fear and ignorance of mankind. Since the beginning of time, people have been judged based on the color of their skin or the place where they come from. Many activists have emerged from these groups to support their communities and help then gain a better treatment. Among these is renowned writer Brent Staples, in his essay “Just Walk on By”, he describes how racism and prejudice are still very present today in American Society. Staples narrates his journey towards understanding the effect his presence has on other people. He also shows his frustration toward the fact that he is not able to do anything to mitigate this effect, even though it constitutes a big part of his life. This essay helps understand the prevalence of racism and prejudice in our society and aims to persuade the audience to sympathise with the writer as well as the black community in general.

Staples begins his essay by narrating an encounter he had with a white woman. He describes how that was the first time he discovered his ability to “alter public space in ugly ways”. It was the first time he became aware of the discrimination black males suffered for merely being in public. While he agreed that it was understandable for women to be afraid, considering black male’s overrepresentation in violent acts, it disturbed and embarrassed him to know he was indistinguishable from muggers and rapists in the area. Still he did not seem angry because of this, showing he was reasonable and fair-minded and making the audience sympathize with him more. Instead, he tries to implement ways to make himself look less intimidating to lessen his effect on the public.

The author continues to narrate examples of times he was unreasonably discriminated. For instance the times he was mistaken for a burglar or his colleague for a killer. By sharing this accounts not only of his personal experience but of one of his colleagues he shows the audience that his is not an isolated case. At this point the audience begins to realize the hardships prejudice brings to black males. This makes them feel empathy towards these men, which is a goal of Staples in writing this essay.

By the end of the essay, Staples provides many examples of the calamities black men suffer by doing something as simple as walking on the streets. He does a very good job at making people understand and sympathize with him as well and black men in general. His narrative successfully persuades the audience to acknowledge that racism and prejudice are still present in society and hopefully prevents them from engaging in it. Everyone should be understanding of what this men go through and know they do not deserve this unfair treatment.

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